The good, the bad and the ugly
As an avid reader and movie buff, I’m always interested when I hear about a movie being made from a popular book. We’ve all watched those screen adaptations made from a beloved book and wondered how they could butcher such a beautifully told story. Sometimes it’s the reverse: we see a film and then run out to read the book on which it was based. Sometimes the movie becomes so successful, most people don’t even know its basis was a book.
Adapting a book for the big screen can be an amazing collaboration between author, screenwriter, director and assorted cast members. Other times it’s like a runaway train you watch in horror as it lurches further and further from the writer’s intention.
Movies are maybe even more subjective than books. It won’t surprise me if you entirely disagree but these are a few books that, in my opinion, have hit the movie mark.
DOCTOR ZHIVAGO by Boris Pasternak
The first time I saw this movie was on a cold January afternoon. I left the theatre in a swell of emotion with a man I thought I was in love with, entirely captivated with the romance of lost love amid the bitter Russian front. So, taken with it, I bought the book (and subsequently the movie) and all of Pasternak’s poetry. I’ve watched the movie countless times and that feeling never leaves me. Truly one of the great epic movies of a generation, capturing the haunting lyricism of Pasternak’s poetic heart.
ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan
A brilliant book beautifully captured in Director Joe Wright’s 2007 film by the same name. Starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan and Vanessa Redgrave, the story chronicles the consequences of an imaginary crime leading to a wrongful conviction. The novel weaves the romantic liaison, the horror of war and the devastating psychological aftermath with tender, but unsentimental grace. The film does the same.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S by Truman Capote
When this movie came out in 1961, it was an immediate hit and of course sealed Audrey Hepburn as the new It girl of Hollywood. But I’ll bet many people don’t even know it was based on Capote’s novella of the same name. Fun fact: Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the lead but her agent deemed it would be bad for her image!
THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak
Entirely original with Death as the narrator, Zusak tells a beautiful story of love and friendship amid unimaginable evil and loss. While not everyone was happy with the 2013 adaptation, it’s emotionally haunting soundtrack, beautiful cinematography and outstanding cast, make it, in my opinion, a fabulous recreation of a successful novel.
GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn
Razor-sharp writing and edgy psychological insight, Flynn’s book was a fast-paced ride with an ingenious suspenseful plot. I couldn’t put it down. I cringed when the movie came out seeing they’d chosen Ben Affleck as the lying, oddly evasive husband Nick. But this thriller was wonderfully assured and even knowing the plot, I found Rosamund Pike (and yes even Affleck) convincingly eerie; a who-dunnit of the most preposterous kind.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
How many recreations of this book have been made? At least six major film adaptations - seven if you include the zombie treatment. Is this a testament to Austen’s brilliant tale of class and women’s inequality or do we just love British period dramas? (My hand’s up!) There are many reasons why it’s been done so often but primarily it’s because Austen’s book makes the past feel modern. Her comedy of manners and marriage continues to resonate with audiences but doesn’t shy away from the realism of its time. Plus, you just gotta love those gowns!
FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley
It’s well known that Shelley’s book was first published anonymously but did you know it was the result of a contest between herself, her future husband Percy Shelley and their friend Lord Byron. Spawning the horror genre, it’s also considered the first true science fiction. The first motion picture adaptation was in 1910. Since then it’s been remade dozens of times, with perhaps the most popular starring Boris Karloff in 1931.
LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel
I can watch this over and over and never tire of it. Magical and fantastical, Martel’s philosophical story of a young man stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean, raises many questions about reality and spirituality. It sold over 10 million copies. Filmed in 3D and visually stunning, the movie directed by Ang Lee won four Oscars and has been hailed as a masterpiece.
There are thousands of other fabulous movies adapted from novels and I haven’t even touched on the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’! There are also newer ones such as Goldfinch and The Art of Racing in the Rain, that I have t seen yet. As always, so many books, so little time. This was so much fun, maybe I should do a movie blog!
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Until next time, happy reading!